When a spectacularly talented person chooses to depart from this life it leaves the rest of us unmoored; it mars the illusion that life is worth living because people like Chris Cornell are supposed to be fulfilled, carrying us along with their celebrity and talent. We’re grateful and buoyed by the gifts he so willingly shared. He touched our hearts with his voice and lyrics and made us feel better. Being told he’d taken his life demoralized many of us. How could that happen to a man with so much talent? Why would he do it – a musician with money, kids and a loving wife should not have been thinking that way.
His loss exacerbates how alone we really are and punctures the dream that success and money bring happiness. It doesn’t if one’s mental stability is unreliable. When depression and mood disorder dominate a life it’s hard to find a reason to keep going. The brain doesn’t radiate happiness and makes living a struggle. There’s a black hole that threatens to engulf people like Cornell who depend on medically prescribed drugs which are not demonstrably different from illegal substances like heroin or crack.He was a recovering drug addict. Doctor prescribed drugs kill if abused or mishandled. Drugs alter reality for the psychologically challenged. They’re taken to enhance stability. It’s why many self-medicate.
Something went very wrong in Cornell’s hotel room just after his concert. He did not perform so well. Lauri Goodling was at the concert and said, “When we saw his state, we thought it was probably because he was messed up. He was either super strung-out on drugs or he was acting mentally ill.”
Early reports tell us that Cornell took a double dose of the anti-anxiety medication Ativan in his hotel room after the concert, tied an exercise band around his neck and hung himself. Was it the drug that caused paranoia and led to suicide or was it the behavior of a man who struggled with a mental disorder and would at some point succumb to death? Probably both. His was a fragile soul, a candle in the wind, a term we poignantly use for adored individuals like Kurt Cobain and Marilyn Monroe.
We wanted Cornell to stay strong. It was much easier having him in our world. But he suffered from a brain that wasn’t in tandem with reality. A brain addled with illness that explains the unexplainable. Brain chemicals gone awry. An illness that took him out.
Some people cannot make it to the finish line because their mental disposition interferes with their desire to live. They cannot survive indefinitely and it’s often the more talented and authentic among us who are forced to bear that kind of suffering. They struggle in the dark until they cannot. And we struggle after their passing.
His illness was known to those who loved him. We can ask why Cornell was allowed to be alone after ingesting his meds? Many noticed he was psychologically off. He was slurring his words. His wife from afar knew he was in trouble. His body guard kicked down two doors to find him lying on the bathroom floor not breathing. It was an if-only moment. If-only I hadn’t left him alone.
We can’t turn back time. We’ve all wanted to when it could have made that difference. A painstaking moment we might have reversed but didn’t. Always easy to figure looking back. We replay it in our brains until reality cements outcome.
We live in an unpredictable world. Was his dysfunction really so different from the society in which we live?
We lost another giant and we’re trying to make sense of it. His fragility is ours in an uncertain world. We wanted him to have another day because he made our lives better.